“Managing a Surrogacy Program—It Takes a Village”
Two years ago Dr. Smotrich gave a talk at a conference on Third Party Reproduction. For the purpose of helping potential patients to understand what is surrogacy all about and how it works, we are going to use his talk as a framework to summarize surrogacy from A to Z. The title of the talk was; “Managing a Surrogacy Program—It Takes a Village” and indeed it does!!!! In summary here is the talk:
- The surrogate herself must be willing to undertake this journey. Intended parents are made up of : traditional couples, male-male couples, female-female couples and single men and single women.
- It is paramount that the physician who is managing the surrogate cases has experience doing so. This is one of the single most important factors in managing a successful Third Party Surrogate program.It is also vitally important that the nurses coordinating the surrogate and the intended parent(s) cycle need to have experience with these types of cycles as well as working with people from other states and other countries.
- Since May 2005 all surrogate cycles are now monitored by the Federal Drug Administration. The FDA regulates and sets out the requirements for determining donor-eligibility, including donor screening and testing for donors of human cells, tissues and cellular and tissue-based products. What this means for people who are going to use a surrogate is that whoever is giving the egg and sperm that will result in the embryo(s) which will be transferred to the surrogate needs to undergo donor-eligibility. All donors of eggs, sperm or frozen embryos are subject to a questionnaire, a physical examination and communicable disease testing.The actual specific diseases to be tested are prescribed by the FDA as is the timing of the testing with respect to the use of the eggs or sperm.
- A donor-eligibility determination is a conclusion that a donor is either eligible or ineligible to donate cells or tissues based on the results of the donor testing and screening. According to the FDA however, even if someone is ineligible based on the testing and screening the eggs and/or sperm and/or embryos can be used for implantation if the HCT/P (for reproductive purposes, eggs, sperm and/or embryos) consists of reproductive cells or tissue from a DIRECTED REPRODUCTIVE DONOR. (A directed reproductive donor means a donor of reproductive cells or tissue, including semen, oocytes, and embryos, to which the donor contributed the sperm or oocyte, to a specific recipient, and who knows and is known by the recipient before donation.) The key here for people who are going to use a surrogate and who fall into the ineligible category is that they have to know and be known by their surrogate before starting their treatment with that surrogate.The FDA regulatory issues are quite complicated and for more information on this subject please call Chris at (858) 558-2221. La Jolla IVF has spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to ensure FDA compliance in terms of our third party cycles (both egg donor cycles and surrogate cycles). It is of the utmost importance that all patients undergoing third party reproductive cycles (egg donor and surrogate cycles) understand the FDA regulations and how these requirements affect and impact their treatment cycles.
- In order for a surrogacy program in an IVF clinic to be successful, the IVF laboratory needs to have experience with the newest and latest advances in embryology techniques such as Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), Blastocyst Transfer and the newer freezing techniques. It is very important that the IVF lab be staffed with the best and have the most up-to-date equipment available. La Jolla IVF has made a commitment to make sure that the lab is always at the forefront of technology and the IVF lab functions as the hub of the wheel from which the other spokes of the program emanate.
- At La Jolla IVF we consider it a conflict of interest for the physician and clinic to own a surrogate agency or to procure surrogates. Over the past several years surrogate agencies have fulfilled the role of finding and matching patients with surrogates. We are very grateful for the wonderful role and support that the agencies we work with provide for and to the patients in their search for surrogates and in finding the best and most competent surrogates available. The agencies fulfill the role of helping commissioning parent(s) with finding legal representation, health insurance for the surrogates, life insurance and in performing background checks on surrogates and in sending the surrogates to the appropriate professionals for psychological screening. By having a well-rounded competent agency involved with all the steps of surrogacy (excluding the medical), this frees La Jolla IVF up to do what we do best and that is the medical treatment of the commissioning parent(s) and the surrogate. Please call our office at (858) 558-2221 and ask to speak to Ezarra to get references to agencies that La Jolla IVF works with on an on-going basis.
In conclusion, couples and singles who need to use either a surrogate and/or egg donor to fulfill their desire to have a family, have found California to be a favorable legal environment for surrogacy in San Diego and egg donation. California courts have taken the lead in all U.S. legal jurisdictions by favorably extending existing California Family Law statues to protect all parties in surrogacy and/or egg donation pregnancies. Indeed it would appear that in fact at the present time California has the most decisive and surrogate “friendly” environment in the world for prospective parents, surrogates and egg donors who can be sure that their intentions, as expressed by their legal agreement, will be upheld in California. In light of the favorable surrogacy and/or egg donation climate in California, La Jolla IVF has treated patients from all five continents and all 50 states in the U.S. On any given day of the week, patients who have come to us from all over the world, arrive at the clinic for us to meet their babies before they return home to their state or country of origin. It is this actualization of their joy of parenthood that makes what we do at La Jolla IVF meaningful.
The bottom line for both the staff and physicians of La Jolla IVF is patient satisfaction. This means that everyone associated the clinic goes above and beyond to ensure that everything that can possibly be done physically, emotionally, psychologically, technologically and financially is done, to assist our patients in their quest for a family.